Hong Kong police on Thursday arrested five people on suspicion of plotting to publish “seditious material” with the intention of spreading public hatred of the Chinese-ruled city government among children.
Those arrested were members of a speech therapist association that designed books for wolves and sheepdogs as characters in the stories, Steve Lee, a senior superintendent for the Department of National Security, told a news conference Thursday.
Police said two men and three women aged between 25 and 28. He did not recognize them.
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He was arrested under a colonial-era law targeting sedition, which was rarely used before anti-government protests erupted in the former British colony.
Police said the first conviction under the law could carry a maximum sentence of two years.
Lee said the contents of the books were “inciting hatred” and “inciting violence” towards the government.
“They are using children’s cartoons to make illegal dealings on political issues simple and beautiful,” he said. “For example, the wicked acts of thugs during the 2019 protests and portraying 12 fugitives from Hong Kong as heroes. They are poisoning our children.”
Lee urged parents and stores to throw away the books.
The arrests were the latest of skeptical critics of Hong Kong’s government, who raised fears about shrinking space for dissent to end pro-democracy protests since Beijing enacted broad national security legislation in June last year.
Authorities have denied any erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong – which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” approach aimed at preserving its independence and role as a financial hub But say that China’s national security is a red line.
Security officials have said the law enforcement action is based on evidence and has nothing to do with an individual’s political stance, background or profession.
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